COP26: Falkirk Council to press for £100m pension fund to stop investing in fossil fuels

Falkirk Council's administration will press for the council's pension fund to stop investing in fossil fuels as soon as possible.

A motion proposing the change was put forward by SNP councillor Paul Garner, in the hope it would be heard at the last full council meeting of the session.

However, with a heavy agenda it was decided to put it to the next Executive meeting instead, after the summer recess.

The motion calls for the council to make "a formal commitment to fossil fuel divestment prior to COP26, with the intention of divesting completely as quickly as possible, and no later than 2030".

Pressure to divest has come from campaigns including Extinction Rebellion Scotland which staged a blockade at the gates to Ineos refinery at Grangemouth last summer. (Pic:Lisa Ferguson)

It urges the pension fund to "further consider how it can reinvest the Pension Fund Members' hard-earned money to drive a green recovery for the Falkirk council area".

Currently, Falkirk Pension Fund supports low carbon initiatives through its direct investment portfolio, but it retains large holdings in fossil fuel industries.

The council has previously resisted calls for divestment, saying it is more effective to lobby companies it invests in and have "robust conversations" with them.

Mr Garner's motion says that the council should now be "demonstrating leadership on the climate emergency at the same time as protecting the long-term interests of their individual investors".

Councillor Paul Garner

The motion recognises the importance of the oil and gas industry to local jobs, particularly in and around Grangemouth, but calls for a "managed transition" replacing a reliance on fossil fuels with investment in green forms of energy.

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Divestment campaigner Ric Lander, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "It's good news for local people and pension fund members that Falkirk Council following similar action taken in Stirling, is calling on the council's pension fund to end their investments in fossil fuels.

"With the UN climate talks coming to Glasgow in just a few months the world is looking to Scotland to lead on the transition away from fossil energy.

"Our most recent study estimated the Falkirk Council's pensions had just shy of £100 million invested in fossil fuel firms: companies like BP and Shell who are still exploring for more climate-polluting oil and gas.

"This money could be better invested in renewable energy and social housing, improving the lives of local people and providing a safe return on investment.

"As this resolution is non-binding, the matter will not be resolved yet.

"The fund managers in Falkirk should now take steps to make a formal commitment to divest from fossil fuels, to and invest in a cleaner, healthier future for all."

Councillor Garner said he was disappointed that the motion was not considered at last week's meeting, after consideration by group leaders and the Provost.

He said: "Given the climate emergency we currently face and the importance of the motion, I and the SNP group were perplexed as to why this would be pushed to the Executive committee by the opposition parties.

"If, as they say, climate change is a priority to them they need to show this by giving this motion its rightful importance.

"It should have been brought before full council and all elected members."

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